Hell Hath No Fury

Offering “a modern, alternative view to the story of Lady Macbeth”, Hell Hath No Fury certainly has an intriguing premise. However, it is a premise that the show doesn’t quite manage to live up to. It presents a modern take on the character and backstory of Lady Macbeth, true, but initially the story is so far from familiarity as to prove confusing. RumDoxy Theatre’s Emma Hopkins takes the brave step of performing a solo show but although some aspects of this performance work, more do not.

Hell Hath No Fury does succeed in its aim, but only to an extent.

Beginning with a soliloquy about how “revenge is a parasite”, Hopkins goes on to play the role of Elanor Macbeth incarcerated in a mental asylum; one of the three witches; and many others – differentiating between them with a series of simple costume changes, such as a hat or a cloak and a change of accent. Although the changes between these different characters are clear, I found Hopkins’ accent for the witch to be unconvincing.

Indeed, although the presence of the witch character makes sense – as this is a play inspired by Macbeth – it also jars with the clever modern world Hopkins has created. Empires are businesses and there are continued references to the city. The script does well in terms of modernising scenes from Macbeth itself, though the reason for Elanor’s manipulation of Macbeth is not what we have read. Although this play wishes to present an alternative view, I found the portrayal of Lady Macbeth as a victim implausible.

The parallel revenge plots pursued by Elanor and the witch begin simply enough, but when they begin to merge together the plotlines become convoluted and at times difficult to understand. This may be due to the fact that there is only Hopkins to portray all characters, with the events described in narration or letters rather than enacted. There is a clothes line at the back of the stage where photos, articles and letters are hung, creating a timeline of events.

Although Hopkins convincingly manages to portray conversations between her characters, differentiating between addressing the audience and these characters through simple but effective lighting, often the changes feel stilted, hindered by too long a pause between each scene.

In contrast to these overlong pauses – in which Hopkins would stop and stare into space before moving into the next scene – several of the plot points, especially those introduced early on, are presented and dealt with too abruptly as a means to an end. The death of Duncan, for example, we know to expect from previous speeches and conversations, but the event itself occurs in a single sentence before Hopkins goes on to discuss its ramifications. Considering Macbeth shows the significance of Duncan’s death early in the play and how it affects the central couple, this plot point feels rushed.

As well as this, the play’s twist in the tale is incredibly obvious, although it does make for a satisfying conclusion to the stories of Elanor and the witch with whom she deals considering their eventual fates. Hell Hath No Fury does succeed in its aim, but only to an extent. This retelling is certainly alternative, but perhaps too much so to be believed.

Reviews by Catriona Scott

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Performances

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The Blurb

Behind every powerful man there is a woman with blood on her hands. Shakespeare paints Lady Macbeth as a cold, manipulative woman who drives her husband to murder in order to satisfy her towering ambition, but is there more to this anti-heroine than meets the eye… This one-woman show, inspired by the Bard’s tragedy, offers a modern, alternative view on the story of Lady Macbeth. A tale fuelled by betrayal, witchcraft, family and love.

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